A Landscape For A Gardener: The Plants

plants (2)The focus of the landscape in the rear yard was and still is the pond. The informally planted pond gardens, surrounded by old scotch pines and punctuated by a small barn, look and feel as though they have reached a mature state of natural equilibrium.  I am not fooled.  A devoted gardener created this garden, and spends lots of time and effort caring for it. The new garden pictured above occupies the mid ground space, which separates the formal pool deck from the sprawling pond landscape. Since this garden will primarily be viewed from above, a collection of equally small growing perennials will feature the flowers, framed by foliage.

plants 2 (6)The arrangement of the different varieties is informal and random.   The modest height of the plants will not obstruct the view to the pond. The bed is anchored by the dwarf white hydrangea, “Bombshell.  The firepit garden includes hemerocallis “Citron”, an Al Goldner variety, and amsonia heubrechtii. The bed on the near side of the stone walk from the pool deck to the pond (not yet installed) is planted with small growing shrubs- spirea “Tor”, rhus aromatica “Gro-Low”, and clethra Ruby Spice.

plants 2 (1)
Perennial cultivars include alchemilla mollis, astilbe “Fanal”, Buddleia “Lilac Chip”, Leucanthemum “Snowcap”, Coreopsis “Moonbeam, perovskia “Peek-a-Boo”, Geranium “Tiny Monster”, Carex “Emerillo”, lavender and blue moss phlox, allium “Millenium”, nepeta “Persian Blue” and monarda “Grand Parade”.

plants 2 (4)Turning the corner from the south side garden to the rear yard, a group of columnar liquidambar “Slender Silhouette” frames the view to come.  Viburnum “Shasta”, viburnum “Mohican”, aesculus parviflora, and variegated red twig dogwood are underplanted with variegated solomon’s seal, and epimedium “Frohn Leiten”.

plants 2 (2)The columnar sweet gum is a great choice for a tree of substance that will grow comfortably in a small and narrow space. The informally growing shrubs bring the pond garden to the foreground, and smooth the visual transition from the more formal house gardens towards the pond.

Plants 2 (14)The landscape has 12 espaliered trees.  8 katsuras provide a lot of screening on both the north and south lot lines without taking up much in the way of space.  These espaliers will be grown into and maintained as a solid green wall.  The north and south perimeter of the front yard landscape is planted with hydrangea “Little Lime”.  Small properties ask for plant material small and narrow in scale.  A pair of old silver maples in the tree lawn had to be removed.  Giant girdling roots eventually did them in.  We replaced the street trees with honey locusts.  Though they fill the bill as street trees, their canopy is open growing, and their roots are friendly to the well being of companion plants.

the plants (14)The south side garden includes fruiting pear trees, and a run of arborvitae, planted for privacy.  The garden includes Macy’s Pride rose, Sunny knockout rose, hyssop, astilbe “Sprite, and the dwarf Russian sage, “Peek-a-Boo”.  Towards the rear, the pear espaliers are underplanted with brunnera “Jack Frost”, and pachysandra.

the plants (6)The brunnera wraps around the side, where the garden is shaded by an overhang.  The sunnier areas are planted with herbs, both perennial and annual. Pots were added at the last for tomatoes, and flowers.

fence gardenIn the front yard, a garden was planned for both sides of the iron fence.  Given the low height of the fence, the perennials are correspondingly short.  The garden is anchored with a number of helleborus “Jacob”.  Added to this, more dwarf buddleia, anemone “Snowdrop”, sweet woodriff, aster “Wood’s Blue”, Salvia “Marcus,  heuchera “Venus”and Euphorbia polychroma.  This garden will be planted with small spring flowering bulbs this coming month.

the plants (8)The fence actually follows the line set by the sidewalk, which is not parallel to the house.  This width of the garden on either side of the fence varies depending on the location.  This helps to create the impression that the fence runs parallel to the house.  Why would I think this was important?  This space is more formally designed.  I am usually reluctant to plant perennial gardens in a front yard. If I do plant them there, I like the effect to be compact and tailored-not a look that nature is particularly inclined to.  Perennial gardens only look as good as the quality of the maintenance devoted to them.  But this client loves, and looks after her gardens.

the plants (7)This garden also solves the issue of how the fence interacts with the landscape. Mulch or stone under the fence-rather bleak.  Grass up to the fence is very difficult to maintain in a beautiful way.  This fence is an architectural feature of the yard-the garden says so.

July 17 2014 (67)The front yard features two types of dogwoods.  A pair of cornus kousa “Venus” will growing to a height of about 15 feet, and features large white flowers in June.  A pair of variegated cornus kousa “Samaratin” are planted between the boxwood describing the curved stone wall, and the fence garden.

succulent-garden.jpgA narrow strip of a bed separates the driveway from the walk to the front door. That garden is entirely comprised of hens and chicks and sedums.  Sedum Vera Jamieson, Dazzel Berry, Mr. Goodbud, John Creech, Matrona and angelina were outfitted with drip lines, so they could be watered on an appropriately infrequent schedule.

the plants (13)Columnar Bradford pears on the north lot line will provide a little large scale company to the house.

the plants (10) The garden at the front is planted with azalea “Stewartsonii, and a collection of blue leaved hostas of varying sizes. The cultivars include  hosta sieboldiana elegans, krossa regal, Halcyon, Regal Splendor, and Mouse Ears.  Regal splendor is a krossa regal variety with cream edges.  By mt client’s special request, a few rhododendron “Nova Zembla”.

the plants (9)Of course the pool yard has a more serious fence and gate-this is code.  But the iron work is light, and permits a glimpse through to the pool terrace pergola.

the plants (4)The last of the planting? Due to the location of several underground mechanical boxes, this area could not be planted in ground.  A frost proof Belgian stoneware pot would be planted with a dwarf Japanese maple. We will most likely drop-pot the maple, meaning we will drop in into the container, plastic pot and all, for the spring, summer, and fall. The maple will be stored in the garage for the winter.  Once in a while I am fortunate enough to have a client who wants a landscape filled with gardens. She has a very special way with plants.  This landscape will shine, given her care.


  1. I love this garden and your plant selections for it. I’m not sure what it is, but all of these plants really speak to me and they’ve been combined in a way that I very much connect with. I will definitely be referring back to this post for inspiration and information many times.

  2. Thank you so much, Deborah, for your inspirations. I cannot tell you how much you have encouraged me to design outside the lines. Your photography, plant descriptions and various stages of development are truly that of a professional. Thank you again!

  3. Amanda Burkett says

    Could not be any prettier–can’t wait {hint, hint} to see this incredible garden mature under the care of it’s gardening-owner. Beautiful. Come help us in Texas!

  4. What a wonderful project…and for someone who cares deeply…created by someone who cares deeply! Thanks, Deborah, for sharing all the progress.

  5. Ellen Devine says

    Ah! the south side garden, love it.

  6. Just wonderful. This post and the previous ones leading to it are ones I will be returning to for careful study. Am interested that you refer to the katsuras as espaliered . Here in the UK, they would be called ‘pleached’ – at least if I am interpreting the final effect – a hedge on stilts? Brava!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Sharon, the katsuras are espaliered. They have been trained/pruned to grow in 2 dimensions. They will make a flat wall, or fence which is green. My understanding of a pleached tree, or hedge on stilts, has length and width of more volume-like a box, growing atop a fairly tall bare trunk-or stilt. Best, Deborah

  7. So informative about the real process of garden design. Thank you.

  8. Deborah- looks great- and your projects in process always look so neat and tidy and clean. Our yard looks like a proverbial bomb went off with even the smallest of projects. It’s fun to see the evolution of your projects.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mary, you have to be neat, when you are on other people’s property. Unless you are the stone mason! Best, Deborah

  9. Deborah even newly planted it is beautiful! What a lovely palate of soft hues and various textures! I like the low plantings and I love the espalier trees on each side. This garden has an old world feel that really suits the house. I hope you show it later next spring.

  10. Paul Michaud says

    Simply stunning I would love to visit this garden in person. The sense of scale perfect and the plant choices stunning!

  11. These three selections from A Landscape For a Gardener were amazing. A beautiful house and gardens that are beautiful in each setting. I will return to it many times.

    You are so talented Deborah

  12. Absolutely stunning! you and crew did a stellar job

  13. Susan Konkel says

    I really enjoyed following this landscape job. Would it be possible to do a follow up at a different season like spring to see everything settled in and growing? I hope the Homeowners would share later pictures of their beautiful home that you helped with.

  14. I get so much pleasure from viewing your work in progress like this series, and learn so much. I cannot imagine living in and tending that garden–what joy! Your work is so solid–sculpturally beautiful and healthy and “do-able” as well as beautiful. Kudos!

  15. Cheryl Ellenburg says

    I would love to see the pond and plantings, also the finished product.

  16. What fun planting for a plant person!

  17. For the love of God….!

  18. The pergola / arbor is beautiful. Was it custom built or a kit? I would like to have one for my own home.

  19. I think you this garden could have used a few more espalier trees……kidding, you know I love it. The plant palette in respect to color and texture is perfect for a gardener. Man, I hope to visit this garden some day on a garden cruise.

  20. Pam Csatari says

    So enjoyed this journey to such a beautiful home landscape. If the gardener owner needs any help, I’d love to work in her lovely gardens just for the happiness of it all. While I know I’ll never have the opportunity to build and enjoy a home/gardens like this, still a great inspiration.Thanks

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